Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

A Typical Toddler Phone Call
Dancing Kitty
Deb called me up on the way home from work. I'd been having a pretty shit public transport experience, with lots of waiting in the cold. But I was finally on a train.

My mobile rang. I had my headphones in, and always feel like I should hold up the microphone to my mouth so it doesn't look like I was talking to myself.

Me: Hey baby.
Deb: Hey are you still in your...
(Cut to some weird hold music)
Deb: Hey I think the phone battery is flat.
Me: Weird, I keep getting hold music
Deb: No don't push that button Pip!
(Cut to weird hold music again.)
Deb: I don't know what button to...
(Hold music continues)

At this point I hung up and called her back.

Deb: Hey you're on a conference call!
Me: Don't you mean on the speaker phone?
Deb: Yeah, yeah!
(Sound of phone buttons being mashed, followed by the heavy breathing)
Pip: *giggles*
(More hold music)
Deb: Are you there?
Me: Take the phone off Pip!
(Somehow there are now two phones on the call. Pip brings his close to the speaker phone which causes bizarre whistling feedback.)
Deb: Give me the phone Pip. Oh, no, not like that!
(Sound of things being dropped, then a child falling over against a wall.)
Pip: Waaah! Waaaah!
Deb: You're OK pip, you're OK. So, are you far away?
Me: Um, I don't know
Train announcement: Now arriving at Croxton
Me: I'm at Croxton!
Deb: Cool. No, Pip! Not the buttons!
(More hold music)
Deb: Are you there?
Me: Hang up! Hang up! I'll see you soon!
(I hang up.)

Pip likes telephones, but not to talk on. He likes them because of all the buttons!

Today was my birthday!
Badtz Maru

I am now forty two years old. Those of you who are as huge nerds as me will know that this is in fact the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything!

Oh man, speaking of epic nerds - the chaps at Google clearly are, this is what popped up when I did a google search for the above:

I was half planning a Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy themed birthday party, but between wrangling our eight month old son and working full time, it got to be too much like work. Might still do it later in the year.

I'm not working Friday's at the moment, since Deb went back to work. So I went out to breakfast with my sister, brother-in-law and niece, who remarkably are in the country - this is a rare, maybe twice a year, event. Then we all went off to the zoo! Didn't take many pictures - too much going on with two kids under four. And lets face it, how many pictures of the tigers in the zoo are there out there? My niece is hilarious - she had to ask her mother what her favourite animal was. For the record, my favourite mammal is the wombat. I have other favourite animals from other categories, but just at the moment I can't think what they are...

I'm not sure how much Pip understood of the Zoo. It was his first trip, the first part of which he spent asleep. He did stare intently at wallaby, watched a seal swimming and stared more at some Merecats. BTW I believe the Merecat evolved specificity to entertain small children at the zoo. They're tiny and always busy, and can be seen at low level. The best critter for a kid to look at.

Deb got me the best present, she located a copy of What-a-Mess, a kids book I used to read as a kid.

And now I need to sleep. My thighs are tired from carrying our nine kilo son for three hours!
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This Little Piggy Went To the Tax Accountant
Badtz Maru 2
can I claim a deduction for toys?
"Can I claim a deduction for toys?"

My kid is a little charmer. We were running about doing errands Monday. First stop was Deb's dentist, conveniently located in East St Kilda. And weirdly across the street from an apartment I shared with my then girlfriend back in 2003!

There were two little old ladies also in the waiting room. They were most charmed by Henry. I was telling one of them how his teeth were bothering him. She said "They'll do that for your whole life". The other little old lady said "They grow up so quickly. I still remember when my son was that age. Now he's 57..."

Then we ended up at a tax accountant to do our taxes, oddly enough. It was only afterwards that I realised that said accountant sat at a desk without a computer on it. The last time I saw anyone working at a desk without a PC on it was in about 1995...

Henry amused himself by flailing about on the office floor. As we waited, Deb invented a new version of a popular old kids song as we played with Henry's toes:

"This little piggy went to the tax accountant
This little piggy stayed at home
This little piggy was claimed as a dependant for tax purposes..."

Turns out the accountant had ten(!) grand children, and was quite pleased to meet Henry.
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Accosted By Hungry Rosellas!
Dancing Kitty
Rosella Shoulder
I was down at Wilsons Prom today - we're staying nearby. There was a gap in the rain so we popped over to Tidal River. Almost as soon as we'd parked a flock of nosy Rosellas flew over and landed on the car. Someone's been feeding this lot, as well as the Magpie who had attached himself to the group.

I attempted to have a banana as a snack, whereupon the boldest of the birds leaped onto my arm! First he pecked at the banana peel I had in my hand, then hopped onto my other hand hand started helping himself to my banana! Cheeky bird.

I had Pip on my back in his sling, while then trying to eat come rice crackers. One of the Rosella landed on my head and then tried to eat a cracker right from my hand. Bad birdie! You freaked out my son!

Rosella on car

We poked around the prom a bit, and without really trying saw two wombats, two kangaroos, a wallaby and two emus (or possibly the same emu twice). And two rabbits and a fox as well, unfortunately. I yelled at them to begone, vermin, but they didn't listen.

Australian wildlife is weird. I've never seen an emu in the wild before, they're an awkward looking bird.

We also bumped into three lovely French tourists. Henry being the charmer that he is, instantly befriended them. They said to him "Bonjour Henri!", although I really can't rendered how lovely the French pronunciation of Henry is :-D

Australia: The Land of Literal Place Names
Badtz Maru 2
I'm currently staying at Sandy Point. It is indeed a point, and it is quite sandy. It's next to body of water called Shallow Inlet which is, as you've probably guessed, a shallow inlet.

View Larger Map

The nearest town to here is called Fish Creek, which is on a creek which, presumably, has a whole lot of fish in it. About an hours drive east of here is a place called Ninety Mile Beach which is, who knew, a beach 90 miles long.

Ah Australia, the place that brought you the Great Sandy Desert, the Great Australian Bite, Big Lake, Small Lake and indeed Cockatoo.
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Epic Desk Clean-up and Re-cabling
I'm something of a huge nerd. My desk at home, such as it is - purchased flat-pack from Officeworks some years ago - is an awful mess. The cabling looks like the worst nightmare of a sys admin.

OK, so, it doesn't help that on it there are two PCs, a Mac Mini, a small server, two laptops, two monitors and a naked caseless PC. Oh, and two printers, an ADSL modem, a wireless router and ethernet switch. And two scanners. And a 4-port and 2-port KVM switch. There's even a record player hidden on a lower shelf.

Yes, I do need all this stuff I tell you! The server has five hard drives in it for a total of 7.25 terabytes of storage for all my stuff. Then there's my main PC, an older PC running Windows XP so I can play games and run old hardware. Then there's my fun little laptop which I take everywhere, an old Mac laptop my mother gave me which I use to back up my iPhone. And the Mac Mini, which has been re-purposed as a windows 7 machine which runs 24/7 downloading stuff. And the PC in bits used to be my old work PC. Currently it thinks it's a Linux box, while I try to get some data off an old RAID from a NAS.... One printer is a duplex (double sided) laser, the other a rarely used colour printer... Look, I feel like I can justify all this shit, I swear.

There's a joke going around that the number of bikes you need to own is N + 1, where N = the current number of bikes you own. This can also be expressed as R - 1 where R = the number of bikes at which your partner leaves you. I may be approaching that point for computers rather than bikes... (Note: there are also seven bikes in the back garden).

This is the before shot:
Desk before

(Forgot to mention the two keyboard and two mice, and shitty PC speakers!).

I picked up a couple of nice desktop speakers on eBay for cheap, which inspired me to rearrange the thing. (Also forgot to mention: web cam, USB mic and small amplifier! Oh and about 20 CDs. And at least one external hard drive. And a USB number pad...)

Here we see the first layer has been removed:
Desk During

And some evidence of the cabling nightmare:
Some of the cabling mess

That shot includes ethernet cables, power supplies, a web cam, various Mac cables, and... well, prizes for identifying the rest of them.

You can see the whole process here on Flickr. I went to the trouble of tagging things and bought a set of shorter ethernet cables and some cable ties.

The final setup

Left to right: ADSL stuff, PC, speaker, server with Mac Mini on top, 22 inch monitor, Macbook, 19 inch monitor, speaker and desk lamp, naked PC. Also visible in the desk is another PC, and above it two scanners. Note also inbox with all the paper in it. You can also see the remains of my cousin's PC on the wall, and framed street art.

This is something of an improvement - I have more desks space - although in practise the new setup has as complex cabling, it's just better hidden.

Guess Who I found on Livejournal? George RR Martin
Actually, I didn't find it, Annette did (hey, if you're reading this, what's your handle on LJ these days??? Still using ladystardust_xs?)

He's here at grrm, and occasionally posts great pictures like this image of the Iron Throne:

Oh, for those not following along at home, George RR Martin is the author of A Song of Fire and Ice, aka Game of Thrones. Not to be confused with George Martin, who produced most of the Beatles records!

Today is my Sponsor Child's Tenth Birthday
Space Man
I direct you to my blog post on Pippy Quark on the subject.

I should work out how to cross post from Wordpress to LJ.

Fifteen years of weight lifting
Cat Go Blah Blah Blah
It was around this time in 1998 I first joined a gym. This was significant, prior to that, I'd never ever done regular exercise. Partly because I didn't own a bike, partly because I hated team sports, and probably partly because when I was a kid I couldn't because of a bung hip. Perthes Disease if you're interested.

I can't tell you exactly what inspired me to join the gym. I was 28, and I put on a lot of weight in my early twenties. Drinking my way through University had assisted that, and living on hamburgers. And also, one's body changes over time, and by your mid-twenties, it starts storing way more fat than it had before. Remind me to mention this to my son as he reaches that age!

So I joined a gym, and I liked it. Although it took me a few years to really start going really regularly.

Those of you who've met me in real life, will know I'm sort of a big chap. So load bearing exercise suited me well, and still does. I'm not a body builder, which is a whole other level of commitment, I'm just some guy who likes to work his muscles. I put in my headphones and get on with it - the headphones also help to drown out the god-awful music they play at gyms. Mine seem to have Channel-V on all the time, so I get to catch really bad music videos too.

I'd always thought of gym's as the province of the meathead, until I realised that a lot of ordinary people work out as well. And a lot of meatheads, but happily there aren't too many of them at the places I frequent. I'd also read that a certain percentage of regular gym goers have the male equivalent of anorexia. For some reason, knowing that there were neurotics working out made it more like my kind of place!

In that fifteen years I've only belonged to four gyms. Let me think... There was RMIT, then Brunswick Baths gym, then Northcote Aquatic Centre, a ritzy gym in Port Melbourne which was called Southport when I was there, it's called something else now. And then Northcote again. In the mean time, I've also lifted weights at the YMCA and Gold's gyms in New York, a shitty gym in Newcastle called City Gym, two gyms in Adelaide, including one on Rundle Mall, plus a couple in the UK and... that's about it. Weird that I can remember them all. The gym in Newcastle had equipment which barely worked, and which looked dangerous. The gym in Lewisham in London was cramped and I found a magazine for Australian expats there.

I shall now celebrate by flexing my biceps!

I Have Mixed Feelings About ANZAC Day
Drawing of a trike

I have somewhat mixed feelings about ANZAC day. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with a day commemorating the lives, and indeed the deaths, of thousands of my fellow countrymen. I just wonder about that day in particular.

The landings at what is now ANZAC cove were a complete and utter unmitigated disaster from start to finish. The poorly thought out campaign, which was at least in part the idea of then Lord of the Admiralty - a certain Winston Churchill - left literally thousands of Australians, and an even larger number of Brits dead. And it ended in defeat.

In the first world war Australia lost some 61,700 dead out of a population of only 4.5 million. This must have been a huge hole in society at the time. The French, between the wars, had a saying: "Where is France's Picasso? Still in trenches...." You could have said a similar thing about Australia: "...still in Gallipoli".

So here we are, remembering what was virtually a massacre, a very very low point in our history, and choosing this as the day we honour our dead... I wonder that there couldn't be a different date, a different event we could have chosen...

I've read a lot of military history, which I'll admit is odd thing for a confirmed pacifist, who marched against both Gulf Wars. One thing I've learned from all this history - the lessons of Gallipoli and the other extraordinary slaughter of the first world war were not learned. When it came to WWII, once again incompetent leaders made stupid decisions which wasted literally thousands of lives. Witness, for example, the Dieppe Raid, the battle for Monte Cassino, and the constant refusal of the leaders of UK Bomber Command to bomb such crucial targets as oil refineries, which would have significantly shortened the war, instead insisting on area bombing of cities, leading to the complete destruction of Dresden at a time when the war was almost won.

My point is, war is a complete and utter waste of human life, and even those who survive come back permanently damaged. No one is unaffected.

There are no veterans in my family. The closest would be a great aunt who served as a nurse in Europe in the first world war. And my mother's father who was in the Netherlands army for a short period during WWII - which ended soon after the Germans took over the country, which they did only as a short cut so they could attack France. My other grandfather was a conscientious objector for religious reasons. My father and uncles were all lucky enough to miss the draft for the Vietnam war.

Deb's grandfather, on the other hand, fought in Papua New Guinea in WWII. With distinction, he was mentioned in dispatches which is about one step below getting a medal for bravery. He got back from the war, and never talked about it... instead spending the next few decades slowly drinking himself to death. Not an unusual story.

And yet we keep starting and fighting wars. So many of them completely unjustifiable, think of the conflicts in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq. How many damaged veterans are we going to have come back from that war and from Afghanistan? There hasn't been a war since WWII that has had any justification in my opinion. At least in WWII it was clear from the outset that it was a war for the survival of a certain kind of civilisation, even before it was obvious what vile things the Nazis were up to.

And so much of the Gallipoli story has turned out to be a myth. None more so than the story of Simpson and his donkey. Here was an Englishman who had deserted from the merchant marine, enlisted under a false name in the Australian army as a way to get back to England, and who did no more and no less than many other stretcher bearers in rescuing soldiers from the battle. And who was killed after only a few weeks at the front. And yet, I have heard it seriously suggested by Amanda Vanstone that one can learn everything one needs to know about being Australian from the story of Simpson and his Donkey.

It's that kind of weird hyper-patriotism that worries me most of all. And the way the day is celebrated has changed a great deal in my lifetime. It was a fairly modest event back when I was a child. There were never crowds of Australian backpackers at Gallipoli on the morning of ANZAC day. I don't know what has changed in the last two decades, it speaks of a certain kind of patriotism that is far less relaxed and modest than it used to be.

Another thing I have learned from all my reading of history books: Australian and New Zealand soldiers, and indeed airmen and sailors, were very highly regarded. No less a person than the German Field Marshall Rommel described New Zealand soldiers as the best in the world, better even than his Germans. Similarly Field Marshall Montgomery was heard to remark before the D-Day landings in Normandy that he wished he had the Australian first army there with him. And the man most directly responsible for winning the Battle of Britain was New Zealander Keith Park.

Now surely out of all the battles fought by these brave men - the war in the pacific, the amazing battles in the deserts of North Africa, the Australians who flew and fought over Europe, surely somewhere in there we could find a day worth commemorating? A day we could chose that wouldn't be when the "blood stained the sand and the water"?
Graveyard in France

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